It is a real crime when the only thing a business values are profits. I was going to write a blog this week about some things I have learnt from one of my favourite leadership books, but with the events all over the news about Visy and Amcor, a question begs exploring.
What were they thinking?
Throughout the news I’ve read surrounding the scandal, there have been numerous explanations and theories proposed as to what could possibly have motivated already successful, market leading and supposedly upstanding organisations to undertake something so blatantly illegal. One quote from an article in the Weekend Australian stood out to me – “It was all about the business of winning.”
A competitive spirit is necessary to survive in today’s business world, but by fixing the outcome the players of this sad tale made a mockery of the notion of competition.
But what has been won? Certainly not financial gains as the fines and lawsuit payouts will most certainly erase those many times over.
Not the goodwill and loyalty of customers who have now bought a class action suit against the organisations involved, promising to keep the scandal in the public eye for many months and years to come.
Not their reputation that will now and forever be tainted as being part of Australia’s largest ever “price fixing cartel”.
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Perhaps now we can have a genuine discussion about the true costs of the single-minded focus on financial performance as the only measurement that matters. Corporate governance and codes of conduct are not worth the paper they are printed on when the leaders of an organisation flagrantly ignore the words and meaning. And sadly, when profits are the only thing a business values, there are usually no other values.
Throughout the corporate scandals of the past decade up to today, I see the same thing over and over – leadership playing lip service to their values, and in doing so creating a cultural vacuum where almost anything goes.
Real leadership and authentic values matter deeply, and in their all too frequent absence, the surprise is not that the scandal happened, but that it doesn’t happen more often.
Alignment is Michel’s passion. Through her work with Brand Alignment Group she helps organisations align who they are, with what they do and say to build more authentic and sustainable brands.
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